[Photo by Dee Gee’s Photography Australia.]
This past week we’ve been putting together a little thing we are calling “The Book.”
Part hiker’s guide, part local history book, part coffee table magazine – we’ll be giving The Book to each of our Light to Light Camps customers to prepare them for their journey beforehand and so they have a classy little memento to take home after.
As we were digging around for great local stories to include in The Book, we came across this amazing tale from the wild and wonderful history of the Far South Coast…
A desperate dash for life
The first Europeans to come into contact with Aboriginal people on this part of the south coast were the survivors of a shipwrecked cargo ship, the Sydney Cove, in 1797.
It was on its way from Calcutta to Port Jackson when it was forced to ground in heavy seas on what is now called Preservation Island, north of Tasmania.
What followed was one of the bravest and most brutal survival missions in Australian history, as a group of 17 men attempted to make the 740 km journey for help – via longboat and foot – to Port Jackson.
“Fatigue, starvation, accidents and violence lessened their number as they marched.”
With limited supplies, the castaways knew they wouldn’t last long on Preservation Island. So a party of 17 men set off in the ship’s longboat to reach help at Port Jackson, 740km away.
But fortune was against them again. In heavy seas the longboat wrecked at the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach, in present day East Gippsland.
Though they had little food and no ammunition, they had no other option than to try and walk the rest of the way to Sydney, a distance of more than 600km.
Fatigue, starvation, accidents and violence lessened their number as they marched. On their way they passed through this land of the Yuin and encountered various Aboriginal groups, some friendly, others not.
“But more tragedy was to come.”
In May, about three months after they set off from Preservation Island, they managed to signal a fisherman near Port Hacking, who took them to Sydney. Only three men of the original group of 17 had made it.
But more tragedy was to come. One of the ships sent to rescue the remaining survivors from Preservation Island, the Eliza, also sank on her return journey, with the loss of her crew and eight Sydney Cove survivors.
Pretty amazing story. It might seem a little far-fetched, if only it weren’t true…